This book was first published in 1915 and I hadn’t even heard of it before my husband pulled it out from the middle of a huge pile of books on the floor at Voltaire and Rousseau Bookshop in Glasgow.
The book was republished in 2003 by The Nautical and Aviation Company of America, they have reprinted a few other Buchan books. I think they were interested in this one because it tells the story of the colonization of Tidewater, Virginia.
Andrew Garvald, a young Scottish student was walking to Edinburgh to start his studies at the university when he has the misfortune to get lost in a heavy hill fog. Despite asking for directions from a young girl (Elspeth) he gets lost again and becomes embroiled with a religious troublemaker and his followers. A troop of the King’s Dragoons rounds them all up and they end up in gaol. As the colonies were in dire need of people it was common for any miscreants to be transported to America or Australia but Andrew escapes this fate with the help of Elspeth who manages to persuade the powers that be that Andrew had nothing to do with the religious rabble.
Andrew decides to take up business in Virginia on his uncle’s behalf when he sees how some fellow Scots have prospered there. After reaching James Town he quickly discovers that the English merchants have all business opportunities tied up and everything is price fixed by them.
The book is fairly anti-English and I did wonder if that was why it was reprinted in America, I found it amusing anyway.
Determined to succeed and overcome any prejudice, Andrew comes up against various sorts of American Indians and the book becomes a boys’ adventure story.
It does has a very similar feel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s writing, particularly Kidnapped and Catriona, with a young man having to fight against adversity and a lot of running around on hillsides. The only difference is that heather doesn’t feature in the American landscape and it isn’t raining all the time.
I quite enjoy an old fashioned adventure story from time to time and this one is interesting because of the different setting and history.
I started reading John Buchan because his father was a minister near where I live and so he was a bit of a local lad and his sister the writer O. Douglas was born in the town.
I had no idea that he had such a high flying career until recently and it amazes me that he had any time for writing at all.